Super Nintendo Entertainment System

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES, is a 16-bit video game console manufactured by Nintendo. It was first released in Japan in 1990 as the Super Famicom. The SNES brand was released in North America on August 23, 1991, in Europe and Australia April 1992, and in South America 1993. This system was the successor to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and featured advanced graphics and sound. It was the first game console to offer 3D graphics with the game Star Fox.

Even with the release of only a few games in North America, Super Mario World which was included with the system, the other games were F-Zero, Pilotwings, SimCity, and Gradius III, it was a huge success. The SNES has sold over 20 million units in the U.S. alone and 49.10 million worldwide.

While other game console manufacturers geared more toward older gamers, Nintendo maintained their policy for younger gamers with limits to the violence of their games. In 1992, Mortal Kombat was a smash arcade hit that featured violence and gore; while Sega retained this in their games, Nintendo did not. The Sega version outsold the SNES version four to one.

In 1993, a Congressional hearing led to a rating system on all video games. Nintendo decided it no longer needed their censorship policies and with the release of Mortal Kombat II, it became the preferred version of the game. Nintendo released Donkey Kong Country in November 1994 and by the end of the year, 6.1 million cartridges were sold.

In October 1997, a redesigned SNES was released (SNS-101), but it lacked S-Video and RGB output. The SNES was discontinued in 1999 and the Super Famicom in Japan was discontinued in September 2003.

The SNES uses a 16-bit CPU, a 64 KB SRAM and a 256 x 15 bit color generator for video, 128 KB of DRAM, and a 24.576 Mhz audio subsystem that is completely independent from the rest of the hardware. Both video and audio processors contain additional RAM in their subsystems.

The cartridges for the system are shaped differently for each region. North America has rectangular bottom with grooves, while other regions are narrower and curved with no grooves. With adapters or console modifications the cartridges can be compatible with consoles in each region.

All SNES versions were gray in color; however, depending on the region, the shade would differ. They all had a top loading slot for the game cartridges, but the slot was shaped differently for each region. Two 7-pin controller ports were located on the front of the unit and on the back was an Multi Out A/V connector and power supply.

The SNES controller had four buttons arranged in a diamond shape, two shoulder buttons, and a cross-shaped directional pad. Other controllers included a light gun, an arcade style joystick, and a SNES Mouse. Some unusual controllers include a ASCII Stick L5, a baseball bat and a golf club.

The original NES games are not compatible with the SNES, but an adaptor is available to play Game Boy games on the system. Devices were available to create a backup cartridge if the original one broke.

Nintendo offered an enhancement chip to be used to perform functions incapable from the main CPU. This chip was used for enhancing 2D game play and creating 3D worlds made with polygons, texture mapping and light source shading. Many cartridges contain built in enhancement chips for faster transfer of data.

Image Caption: Original Super Nintendo with controller. Credit: Evan-Amos/Wikipedia